Category: Giro d’Italia

Israel Cycling Academy celebrates Giro invite

SAN JUAN, Argentina (VN) — The 2018 Giro d’Italia wildcard invitation Israel Cycling Academy received on Saturday is “big news” for the team and those riders gunning for a spot when the race starts in Jerusalem May 4.

The team received one of only four wildcard invitations offered by Giro organizer RCS Sport, with the other three going to Italian teams. With the race starting in Jerusalem, the first grand tour to go outside of Europe, the team put much weight into the 2018 season and the Giro.

The team began its season Sunday at the Vuelta a San Juan in Argentina.

“I’m happy, it’s big news for us and for cycling in general,” Italian sprinter Kristian Sbaragli told VeloNews.

“It’s historic for the Giro to start in Jerusalem and finish in Rome, iconic places, we are happy to be there and we are going to be there with a strong team. Our goal is to win a stage.”

The Israeli team will join Pro Continental teams Bardiani-CSF, Wilier Triestina, and Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec, along with the 18 WorldTour teams with guaranteed starts in the grand tours.

“It’s a big deal for me, the Giro’s going to be my biggest goal of 2018,” continued Sbaragli. “I want to be there at 100 percent. I’m Italian, it’s big for me and then to be in the Israel Cycling Academy, so I have to show their colors both in the starting stages and when we get back to Italy.”

The team owned by Ron Baron and Sylvan Adams added depth to its roster over the winter, bringing on Sbaragli from Dimension Data, already a stage winner in the Vuelta a España, and Rubén Plaza and Ben Hermans. American Tyler Williams is also part of the 24-man roster. In addition, the team added support staff and structure with 2018 in mind.

“We have a good program this year with Milano-Sanremo, the Tour of the Alps, Tirreno-Adriatico, also Catalunya,” sport director René Andrle said.

“Another level in 2018? Yes, I think that this was the goal of the team when we started, to be among the best teams. Now we need to show that we can compete with the best teams.”

Israel Cycling Academy will be thrown into the deep-end in the Giro with Sky and Chris Froome, assuming he competes. Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) will also be back to defend his 2017 title.

“We hope that we will represent the team well,” added Andrle.

“It’s bigger than last year for us, we have many more strong riders, we have a big structure, like a WorldTour team. I hope that we will be one of the big surprises of 2018. And I hope that we can win one stage in the Giro, that’s our goal for the race.”

RCS Sport, according to VeloNews sources, should receive around 10 million euros from the local Israeli organizer. That money is partly profit but also covers the costs of flights, transportation of materials, and management of the complex foreign start.

Since Israel is giving such funds, many followers assumed that the home team would easily receive one of the four wildcard invitations without question.

“You never know if the invite would come or not,” said Andrle.

“Now, we have to prove to everyone that we deserve it.”

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Pro Continental teams anxiously await Giro wildcard reveal

FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Giro d’Italia organizer RCS Sport may decide the fate of several teams Friday when it announces the wildcard invitations for the 2018 race.

Italy’s top organizer will select four Pro Continental teams to compete alongside the 18 WorldTour teams that have guaranteed places on the Giro’s start list.

For Italian teams, “it is everything” to race in the biggest race on their home soil. Not being included in the field risks the squads’ futures.

“To race the Giro for an Italian team means securing sponsors for the next year and also for the current year. To have more security,” Wilier Triestina sport director Luca Scinto told VeloNews.

“As a professional continental team it’s everything for us. Then if you go and win a stage, it’s even better!”

The race, scheduled for May 4-27, will be the first grand tour to begin outside of Europe in Jerusalem. The deal, according to VeloNews sources, is to be worth 10 million euros for RCS Sport.

Recent strife in Jerusalem, however, may force the Giro to start elsewhere. Race director Mauro Vegni said last month RCS Sport is ready for a Plan B if that becomes necessary.

The four wildcard invitations will be delivered Friday. Given the start and the local organizer’s contribution, VeloNews understands that Team Israel Cycling Academy will receive one of the four. The squad includes American Tyler Williams and stars Ben Hermans and Rubén Plaza.

The remaining three selections appear headed to Italian teams Wilier Triestina, Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec, and either Nippo-Vini Fantini or Bardiani-CSF.

Ireland’s Aqua Blue Sport, which has U.S. road race champion Larry Warbasse on its roster, will not race, according to two sources close to the decision. After a 2017 debut season that included a Vuelta a España ride and stage win with Stefan Denifl, the team may not race in any of the three grand tours in 2018.

The Tour de France last week named its four wildcard teams for July: Belgium’s Wanty-Groupe Gobert and France’s Cofidis, Direct Energie, and Fortuneo-Samsic.

After years with Russia’s Gazprom and Poland’s CCC, RCS Sport’s selection will be Italian flavored. That is music to the ears of many teams struggling to continue each year in Italy, still crippled by the Eurozone crisis.

“These teams animate the racing the first week with escapes,” Scinto continued. “The WorldTour teams have other goals, overall classification and so on, but ours make a good show.”

The Wilier team includes one of Italy’s top stars, Filippo Pozzato. Pozzato struggled to find his best form in recent years, his last win coming in 2013, but he draws crowds and television cameras.

The two other invitations should land in the mailbox of Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec and Bardiani-CSF. Both come with baggage.

Bardiani built its reputation as the “green team” in Italy producing young talent. Sonny Colbrelli and Enrico Battaglin both graduated to ride for WorldTour squads.

On the eve of the 2017 Giro, however, two of the team’s riders — Niccola Ruffoni and Stefano Pirazzi — tested positive for human growth hormones. Given its history and the lack of options, Bardiani should still race.

“We’re not going to hide that we are slightly worried, given what happened at the start last year,” Bardiani-CSF sport director Roberto Reverberi said.

“The organization should take into consideration the 30 years of our team. Our team has nothing to do with [the positive tests] at all. Even in the big teams, it happens.”

If Bardiani is overlooked, the organizer could send the invitation to Nippo Vini Fantini-Europa Ovini. The team includes 2004 Giro champion Damiano Cunego who, like Pozzato, has not won lately. Cunego said he will retire at the end of May regardless of whether he competes in the Giro.

Androni missed the 2016 and 2017 editions but is certain for 2018 with its Italian Cup classification victory last season.

Some will celebrate Friday, but a blow, one with possible dire consequences, will be delivered from RCS Sport’s Milan headquarters to one unlucky team Friday.

As Androni’s sport director Alessandro Spezialetti put it, “being left out of our home tour is a big blow.”

Without the television publicity of the Giro and a chance to race in the other two grand tours, sponsorship funding could wither like a grape that’s been forgotten in Italy’s vineyards.

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Dumoulin considering Giro-Tour double in 2018

FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) will consider racing for the overall titles at both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France this season.

The Dutchman and winner of the 2017 Giro is to contemplate a run at the Tour this July after attempting to earn another Giro victory in May.

Dumoulin, 27, and the 2018 men’s and women’s German Sunweb teams were presented last Thursday in Berlin.

“And yes, that is indeed an option for me next summer,” Dumoulin told De Telegraaf. “I think it is not impossible to combine those two grand tours.

“Certainly so because there is a week extra this year because of the World Cup, which offers more possibilities for recovery.”

To avoid overlapping too much with the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Tour organizer ASO moved its race back one week. It will run from July 7-29. The Giro is slated for May 4-27.

Team Sky’s Chris Froome will take aim at both the Giro and Tour after winning the last two grand tours in 2017, the Tour and the Vuelta a España.

Froome’s future, however, hinges on a salbutamol anti-doping case from the Vuelta. The outcome could see him cleared, or he could be stripped of his Vuelta title and suspended.

Dumoulin took note of Froome’s former Sky helper Mikel Landa for inspiration. In 2017, Landa raced the Giro for the overall. Despite crashing and losing time, he won the mountains classification and the Piancavallo summit stage.

Sky called the Basque rider to race the Giro to support Froome. At times he appeared the strongest and after three weeks he finished fourth, one second away from third overall. This season, he is racing for team Movistar and is focusing on the Tour.

“I indeed noticed [Landa’s] approach,” Dumoulin continued. “In my eyes, a lot of riders have made the mistake in the past by focusing on both the Giro and the Tour from the start of the season. As a result, they were probably already in the Giro with the classification in the Tour in mind. It is a mindset that does not work. I think you should focus completely on the Giro and only then have to look further.”

Dumoulin won the Giro d’Italia ahead of Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) in 2017. He blasted his opponents in the two time trials and rode equally strong in the mountains.

Dumoulin’s Giro decision stemmed from the greater amount of time trial kilometers in the Giro vs. the Tour, 44.2 versus 31. In late November, Dumoulin said he would only race one or the other grand tour.

Insiders considered the Maastricht native ready for a crack at the Tour’s overall. He nearly won the 2015 Vuelta, returned in 2016 to focus on stages in the Giro and Tour (taking three in total), and in his first concentrated attempt to win the pink jersey last year, he was victorious.

“In my eyes, I don’t understand the Giro decision. I think he’s ready for the Tour de France,” Dutch journalist Raymond Kerckhoffs told Velonews. “When you go for the general in the Tour, that’s a process, you need time and experience at doing so.”

Dumoulin, after considering Landa’s approach, could be compromising in 2018. It is music to the ears for those who consider him the man capable of dethroning Froome at the Tour.

“Then [after the Giro] there are four possibilities: the Tour for the standings, the Tour for stages, the Vuelta as a helper for Wilco Kelderman, or no other grand tour,” Dumoulin said. “Only after the Giro we will cross that bridge.”

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Dutch Journalist: Dumoulin’s Giro decision will give Dutch cycling a boost

FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Tom Dumoulin’s decision to ride the Giro d’Italia and defend his 2017 title next year “will be huge” for cycling, the Netherlands, and the Italian grand tour itself.

The Sunweb rider will race the Giro, according to newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport, which is closely linked to race organizer RCS Sport, and Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf. The 27-year-old and his German WorldTour team will announce the decision at the team presentation Jan. 4 in Berlin.

“It’s huge for cycling in Holland after the last two years with Steven Kruijswijk, who almost won, and then this year with Dumoulin winning,” De Telegraaf journalist Raymond Kerckhoffs told VeloNews.

“His return to the Giro will be huge, he won the sportsman of the year in Holland this week mostly due to his win and of course, the world title in the time trial.”

The 2018 Giro d’Italia starts in Jerusalem on May 4. Its starting lineup should include Chris Froome (Sky), Fabio Aru (UAE Emirates), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Esteban Chaves and Simon Yates (Orica-Scott), and Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing). Froome’s participation hinges on a salbutamol case.

“If you have Froome against Dumoulin, that would be spectacular for the Giro organizer,” added Kerckhoffs. “After the 2017 season with Dumoulin winning the Giro after a slow progression, everyone looked ahead to 2018, talking about the possible duel between Froome and Dumoulin in the 2018 Tour. Now, however, it’s going to happen at the Giro, assuming that everything is OK with Froome.”

Dumoulin could find the ideal battleground in Italy for a second grand tour title against the best in the business. The 2018 Giro includes two time trial stages — one at 9.7 kilometers in Jerusalem to start the race and another measuring 34.5km in the race’s third week.

The Tour de France, July 7-29, features a 35km team time trial in Cholet and a 31km individual TT.

Thanks to his time trial strength, Dumoulin positioned himself for the 2017 Giro win. He won the the 39.8km race against the clock in Montefalco and finished 1:24 faster than Nairo Quintana (Movistar) in the stage 21 time trial to Milan. Quintana, the winner of the 2014 Giro and 2016 Vuelta, placed second overall in the final standings at 31 seconds back.

“The course is better for him than the Tour, I think,” Kerckhoffs said. “The 2017 Giro was the first he started with ambitions for the GC, so he doesn’t have much experience in grand tours and maybe it’s better to get that at the Giro. And one of the nicest things is when you start with the No. 1 on your back.”

Dumoulin’s steady rise seemed to put him on course for the 2018 Tour, however. Dumoulin surprised everyone, including himself, when he nearly won the 2015 Vuelta a España. He only faltered on the last mountain day to the more experienced Aru and his Astana team. He devoted 2016 to stage wins, winning one in the Giro and two in the Tour. When he finally aimed at a grand tour overall, he succeed in the 2017 Giro.

The 2018 program, even if it’s Italian flavored, leaves insiders and experts baffled.

“In my eyes, I don’t understand the Giro decision. I think he’s ready for the Tour de France,” Kerckhoffs said. “When you go for the general in the Tour, that’s a process, you need time and experience at doing so. There is so much attention there and more pressure than you’ll find at the Giro or Vuelta.

“It’s correct that the parcours of the Giro is a little better for him with more time trial kilometers, but the pressure will be on him to win. Anything less than victory is defeat. If he was to race and place fourth in the Tour, that’s great and he learns from it.

“He said that he would be logical in his program decision,” Kerckhoffs added. “That if he sees more chances of winning the Giro, then he would race it instead of the Tour. And I guess that’s what he sees.”

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VeloNews awards 2017: Giro stage 16 is race of the year

Editor’s note: To close out 2017, we named our 30th annual VeloNews awards in the November/December issue of VeloNews magazine.

Race of the year: Giro d’Italia, stage 16

There was no shortage of great bike races in 2017. Yet one day of racing stands above all others for its combination of intrigue, high stakes, difficulty, beauty, and one man’s poise under fire.

Tom Dumoulin nearly lost — but ultimately saved his chance to win — the Giro d’Italia during the epic, three-climb, 222-kilometer stage 16 over the Mortirolo, Passo dello Stelvio, and Umbrailpass, which was punctuated by his very public and inopportune call of nature. In the middle of the most important stage of his life, the Dutchman succumbed to a mildly embarrassing and potentially disastrous case of the … well, he “needed to take a dump,” as he said after the stage.

By stage 16, Dumoulin had already won two stages and boasted a firm grip on pink, leading by 2:41 over Nairo Quintana (Movistar). To have any chance of winning, the Colombian needed a repeat of the surprise attack he sprung on Chris Froome in the 2016 Vuelta a España stage to Formigal.

As many had predicted and as race organizers had hoped, the infamous Stelvio would produce the Giro’s decisive mountain battle.

We spoke with the lead protagonists for a deeper understanding of how the most exciting stage of the 2017 season unfolded.

Sunweb sport director Aike Visbeek had no doubt what was on the line that morning in Rovetta, where stage 16 began: “We were a bit nervous about the stage. We were afraid that Tom would be attacked on the first climb up the Stelvio, so we had Laurens [Ten Dam] up the road. He really made the race for us that day.”

‘The situation was looking perfect for us’

Sunweb slotted road captain Ten Dam into the day’s breakaway; he would provide key help later in the stage. American Chad Haga paced Dumoulin up the Mortirolo, and everything seemed to be going to plan.

Haga: “There was no hint that Tom was in trouble, and he was super strong up the Mortirolo. I was leading the peloton over the top, and there was a kicker there, and I popped a little wheelie, ‘Wheeee!’ I finished the stage, and I had already cleaned up, showered, and was ready to have my massage before I even found out what had happened.”

Dumoulin safely negotiated the climb up the fearsome Stelvio from Bormio. There were a few dangerous riders up the road, but he was marking the aggression from his direct GC rivals. And then he felt an unexpected and unwelcome tinge in his stomach.

Dumoulin: “The legs were great, but I started to feel bad in the stomach on the descent off the Stelvio. It was a nervous moment.”

Visbeek: “The situation was looking perfect for us. As we came down the Stelvio, he came right up to the car and said to us, ‘I have a problem.’ I looked at him and he did not look well. ‘I have to make a nature call.’ I asked if he could get over the final climb [of the Umbrailpass]. He said that was not possible.”

Visbeek immediately realized the Giro could be lost. Movistar and Bahrain-Merida were pressing the action as the peloton approached the start of the final 13-kilometer climb. The situation was precarious.

Ten Dam: “I didn’t see him the whole stage, because I went away on the Mortirolo. And when I came back to him after the first Stelvio, he wasn’t the same Tom. I said, ‘What’s the matter?’ He said, ‘I need to shit.’ And I said, ‘Oh, shit!’ First, we tried to stop it, and then we had to get rid of it. It came on at a bad moment.”

Dumoulin: “It could have been a combination of the altitude, and eating more gels than normal. You cannot eat bars on climbs like that. It was a big fight with myself, to try to manage everything.”

‘Shit happens. What can you do?’

With about 32km to go, still several kilometers short of the start of the hardest part of the Umbrailpass, Dumoulin swerved violently off the right side of the road. It quickly became clear that he had a serious problem.

BMC Racing sport director Max Sciandri, driving in the first team car to support Tejay van Garderen, witnessed the entire thing: “I wouldn’t have stopped there. I would have stopped further up on the climb. The group always accelerates to hit the base of a climb, so in that valley the race was full-on. He probably lost a bit more time by stopping where he did.”

Visbeek: “The same thing had happened to Caleb Ewan a few days earlier, so when the Orica-Scott car drove by, they gave us some extra rolls of toilet paper.”

Dumoulin did the best he could under the circumstances. He returned to his bike as quickly as possible, and was soon chasing through the team cars with Ten Dam leading the way.

Sciandri: “Every team packs toilet paper, wipes, and some spare clothes. They handled it in their own way. I saw him coming through the team cars. He wasn’t panicking. Shit happens, what can you do?”

Nairo Quintana: “I didn’t attack Dumoulin when he was in difficulty. I was respectful of the maglia rosa, but the other teams wanted to make their own race. They were not trying to profit from his misfortune, but simply looking to take advantage of the opportunity of the stage.”

‘The race was on’

There was confusion in the bunch. Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) attacked and Movistar slowed a bit, but the race was on as the small GC group hit the Umbrailpass. LottoNL-Jumbo’s Steven Kruijswijk, still an outside GC threat, was up the road as part of the day’s main breakaway, along with Sky’s Mikel Landa and Movistar’s Andrey Amador. Vincenzo Nibali, who had circled this date on his calendar, wasn’t going to miss his chance. While online pundits immediately opened the debate of whether they should wait or race, there was no such hesitation within the peloton.

Nibali: “It was a confusing situation. The race was unfolding. The other teams were pushing the pace. There were attackers up the road. When I crash or I puncture, I just get back on the bike again, and keep racing. I never expect anyone to stop for me.”

Dumoulin: “The race was on. Kruijswijk was attacking, so I cannot expect them to wait, and give him three minutes. I don’t know what happened in the front. I was trying to get moving again as fast as possible.”

Ten Dam: “Once he got rid of ‘it,’ he really had good legs. He was yelling, ‘Go faster! Faster!’ I was tired from jumping on the Mortirolo and over the first pass of the Stelvio so I could not help him as much as I wanted to.”

Visbeek: “For a few moments you think you’re in a very bad movie. Tom could have lost everything right there. We said to him, ‘You still have the time advantage. Just ride your race.’ It turned into a time trial for him.”

‘He kept his cool’

Tom Dumoulin
Tom Dumoulin rode alone on stage 16, fighting to save his Giro d’Italia lead after an untimely bathroom break. Photo: Tim De Waele |

Now alone, Dumoulin raced to limit his losses as his GC rivals pressed the pace. With Landa distancing the other early attackers, Nibali attacked and brought Quintana with him. Dumoulin’s pink jersey hopes were quickly unraveling.

Dumoulin: “I just had to fight, fight, fight all the way to the line, and then take the conclusions there. I was very disappointed. I was thinking, ‘Now I will lose the Giro for taking a dump!’”

Visbeek: “Everyone thinks Tom could have lost the Giro there, but this is where Tom won the Giro. It was a moment when he could have panicked or when he mentally breaks. Tom never did that. He kept his cool in a very complicated situation. He stayed focused. The only time he lost was when he stopped. He was just as strong as those guys up the [Umbrailpass].”

Nibali outsprinted Landa for the stage win and Quintana crossed the line 13 seconds back. Dumoulin finished 2:18 back. His lead to Quintana was trimmed to 31 seconds — but he still had the pink jersey.

Dumoulin: “I knew I could have stayed with Nibali and Quintana on the final climb. I still had the final time trial, but instead of nearly three minutes’ lead, I only had 31 seconds. That day made the rest of the Giro a very different race.”

‘He was still the best guy in the race’

At the finish line, an angry and disappointed (and soiled) Dumoulin didn’t want to talk to the press. Veteran Sunweb press officer Bennie Ceulen convinced him to clean up and answer a few questions. Dumoulin couldn’t hold back his disappointment.

Visbeek: “To be honest, we didn’t talk too much about the incident. We focused on making sure Tom was feeling okay. The guys were disappointed, but we talked to the veterans on the team — Ten Dam and Simon Geschke — and said to them, ‘Tom rode up the climb as fast as Nibali and Quintana.’ It might have been a silly way to lose time, but he’s strong enough to win the Giro.”

Haga: “Tom was pretty dejected after his GC lead took a huge blow, but that’s when Laurens really stepped up as team captain and said, ‘Hey man, you stopped, you did your business, and you still kept the leader’s jersey.’ He put it back in Tom’s head that he was still the best guy in the race.”

For Dumoulin, the character he showed on the Stelvio carried him through the final week. Seven days later in Milano, he secured the pink jersey in the final-stage time trial. Dumoulin became the first Dutchman to win a grand tour since 1980, and the first to win the Giro. A happy and relieved Dumoulin could even make light of the unplanned rest stop.

Dumoulin: “I will go down in the history books for winning the Giro after shitting in the woods. It’s quite amazing.”

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Report: Defending Giro champ Dumoulin will return in 2018

Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) will race the Giro d’Italia next year and try to defend his 2017 title, according to media reports in Italy and the Netherlands following Dumoulin’s acceptance of the Sportsman of the Year award.

The official announcement isn’t expected until Sunweb’s 2018 team presentation next month, but De Telegraaf cited sources that said team officials and Dumoulin himself have confirmed to race officials he will be at the planned start in Jerusalem on May 4.

Dumoulin’s decision to race the Giro is somewhat of a surprise, since many expected him to target the Tour de France following his breakout victory in the 2017 edition of the Italian grand tour.

Dumoulin’s apparent confirmation will come as a salve for Giro officials, who finally convinced Chris Froome to race the Italian grand tour — only to see the Sky rider test positive for elevated levels of Salbutamol.

Despite a threat of a possible ban, Froome vowed to keep racing as he fights to clear his name of the adverse analytical finding en route to winning the 2017 Vuelta a España.

Dumoulin’s presence will bolster the season’s first grand tour, as many top stars have committed to racing the Tour de France. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), who finished second and third behind Dumoulin in the 2017 Giro, are both targeting the 2018 Tour.

Other top names confirmed to race the Giro include Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana), Esteban Chavez and Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing), and Louis Meintjes (Dimension Data).

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Who’s racing grand tours in 2018

FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — With 2018 around the corner, only a few uncertainties remain for next season’s grand tours and their star competitors. Sky’s Chris Froome decided his program will include both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France. The rest are following as the winter days and team camps pass.

The Santos Tour Down Under starts the 2018 WorldTour season on January 16. Right before that, the Vuelta a España will unveil its route on January 13. And along the way, we will see the confirmation of schedules for riders like Sky’s Mikel Landa and Sunweb’s Tom Dumoulin.

Perhaps this is the greatest suspense of the off-season, with photographs circulating of riders already in their new team colors trickling out — Marcel Kittel and Ian Boswell in Katusha’s red — and the grand tour routes reported days or weeks before the actual presentations. Giro director Mauro Vegni said last month, “By now, you all know everything because it seems that it’s a race among the media outlets to publish the route in advance, be we still have something important to unveil with regards to the participants.”

The certainties outweigh the unknowns. Sicilian Vincenzo Nibali of Bahrain-Merida has his eyes on the Tour and wants to prove the 2014 victory was not simply due to Froome abandoning in the first week. He would love to return to the Giro, where he supported Ivan Basso before going on to win titles in 2013 and 2016 and placing third behind Dumoulin this May, but pride drives him.

The alleged decision of organizer RCS Sport to cater to Froome reportedly upset Nibali. Also, those whispers about the 2014 Tour cannot be ignored. These reasons could affect Nibali’s decision to skip his home race and go abroad to the Tour.

It was not an easy decision to make. “Sicily is back on the Giro route next year, a second year in a row, which has never happened,” Nibali told La Gazzetta dello Sport during the Giro presentation last month. “And then the goal of winning the Giro three times is enticing, there are not many who’ve done so.”

Nibali and his team will meet this this week in Hvar, Croatia, where the 2018 plan will be put together.

Froome, Nairo Quintana (Movistar), and Richie Porte (BMC Racing) will be among the star riders heading directly to the Tour on July 7 in Vendée. At BMC Racing’s camp in Denia, Spain, Porte confirmed his plan with support coming from American Tejay van Garderen. Porte, in the form of his life, crashed this summer on the wet downhill heading to Chambéry during stage 9 and had to exit the race. It was “hard to take” for Porte but he said he is “motivated even more for next year.”

Quintana, winner of the 2014 Giro and the 2016 Vuelta, will try to take care of unfinished business in the Tour. He finished second twice and third once behind Froome. This year, he fell short in his Giro-Tour double by placing second behind Dumoulin in the Giro and 12th in the Tour. Quintana said last week he will focus on the Tour in 2018:

The Tour de France could be more open than before, with Froome trying for a slice of history. He will race the Giro after winning both the Tour and Vuelta in 2017. He would be only the third rider ever to win three consecutive grand tours if he succeeds at winning in Italy. After that, he’ll aim for a fifth Tour title. Rivals and teammates have taken note.

Sky’s Geraint Thomas will skip the Giro and race the Tour in support of Froome, but also as a serious plan B. He will focus on the Vuelta later in the summer. “Obviously Froomey will still be the leader going into it, but it might be more of a chance for me to have more of a go myself,” Thomas told BBC Wales regarding the Tour. “The Vuelta after that could be a potential race for me to go into in the full team leader role.”

Added Dumoulin recently: “Will [Froome] be worn down in the Tour? I think he showed an even better form in the Vuelta this summer than in the Tour, so you never know with him. But I don’t look to other riders for making a decision about any kind of race.”

Dumoulin and Spaniard Mikel Landa remain the big uncertainties heading toward the new season. Dumoulin will announce his grand tour plan at the team’s presentation on January 4. La Gazzetta dello Sport, which has links to Giro organizer RCS Sport, claims he will return to defend his title. Those close to the Dutchman, however, say his eyes are only on the Tour in 2018.

Landa, according to one source, will lead Movistar in the Tour against his former team leader Froome. The Spanish WorldTour squad will send Alejandro Valverde to the Giro and a super-team led by Landa, Quintana, and Valverde to the Tour. That remains to be confirmed at the team’s presentation Thursday.

Italian Fabio Aru will lead his new UAE Emirates team at the Giro and will try to win his home race after placing third and second and canceling his plans to race earlier this year after a last-minute crash. He went to the Tour instead and won a stage, held the yellow jersey, and placed fifth. His new teammate Dan Martin will take aim at the 2018 Tour.

Australian Rohan Dennis confirmed he will continue his four-year plan to transform from a time trial rider into a grand tour contender. He will have BMC Racing’s support for the overall at the Giro.

“I was inspired how Dumoulin raced the Giro,” Dennis said. “He raced physically and mentally, and he stayed positive no matter what happened in the stage. It’s possible for the type of rider I am to be good in the grand tours.”

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Giro organizers consider ‘plan B’ due to Jerusalem turmoil

FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Rocket strikes and growing international protests centered on Jerusalem have prompted Giro d’Italia organizers to consider a backup plan for 2018. Next year’s race is due to become the first grand tour to begin outside of Europe on May 4 in Israel’s ancient city.

RCS Sport’s top brass in Milan are considering a “plan B” in case the political situation does not improve, according to sources. Violence, protests, and international condemnation have increased in the last week since U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Israel has always considered Jerusalem its capital but Palestine claims East Jerusalem — occupied by Israel since the 1967 War — as the future capital of a long-sought Palestinian state.

The scenario is far from ideal for a race organizer planning a massive million-dollar event in just five months’ time.

RCS Sport, celebrating its 101st Giro in 2018, considers the race a pink party. The host city for the big start typically comes alive in various shades of pink. Start cities Amsterdam (2016), Belfast (2014), and Alghero (2017), exemplified this when they embraced the three-week Italian tour. Jerusalem, always a contested city, must consider security over pink balloons and banners for the 176 professional cyclists.

The race had a brush with regional violence in 2014 when a car bomb was discovered in Dublin hours before the Giro’s stage 3 in Ireland. Race organizers said the 50-pound device was unrelated to the event.

Three rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza on Friday. Israeli military retaliated with targeted strikes the next day. Reports say four people have died. Eight nations, including Italy, have called on the United Nations to hold an urgent meeting following Trump’s move and the reactions it provoked.

RCS Sport is reportedly considering a worst-case-scenario plan B option that could see the race start in Italy’s south. Instead of three Israel stages, the 2018 Giro d’Italia could tour the toe of Italy’s boot in Puglia and move west over three stages. On the island of Sicily, it would continue as planned with stage 4 from Catania.

Another possibitity, which cycling director Mauro Vengni pointed out in September, is starting the race from Catania.

“I already have a plan B, all-Italian, but it will have to truly be a last-ditch scenario,” Vegni told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“Anyway, keep in mind that our foreign minister is following the big start plans at every pass.

“I have the possibility of inserting in the Giro route, between the south and central Italy, three stages to replace those Israeli stages. But, I’ll repeat, this would be a true extreme solution, which I don’t really want to think about.”

Vegni and RCS Sport had yet to reply with an updated plan based on the current tensions when contacted for this article.

Already before the 2018 route announcement November 29, RCS Sport was pushed by international groups to reconsider its starting location. The Giro, however, hoped to keep politics out of the race.

The Giro is due to begin with a 9.7-kilometer time trial in the holy city of Jerusalem, which is contested and divided by the Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Armenians. Its second stage travels to Tel Aviv and the third heads south to the resort town of Eilat.

The secondary plans would see the Giro stay completely within Italy’s borders for 2018, something that did not even happen when the race celebrated its 100th edition this May. The route briefly passed through Switzerland in the Stelvio stage, when eventual winner Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) had to stop for an emergency toilet break.

Much is riding on the Jerusalem start. RCS Sport will want to push ahead with its planned Israeli stages assuming all is safe. It will receive an estimated €10 million from Israel according to VeloNews sources. The local organizer is also said to be kicking in a large sum, upward of €2 million, for Chris Froome (Sky) to race.

The association of teams (AIGCP) was unavailable for comment for this article.

President of the CPA riders union Gianni Bugno told VeloNews, “We need to have a plan A and B. If it remains how it is now in Israel, it’s not great, but we need to see how the situation changes when the team nears. The CPA will leave the decision to the organizer and the UCI governing body to decide what’s safe and what’s not. They need to decide if it’s worth going.”

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VN pod, ep. 61: Giro route and Froome’s bid for pink

Welcome to the VeloNews cycling podcast, where we discuss the latest trends, news, and controversies in the world of cycling.

We’ve been poring over stage profiles and maps to decipher the 2018 Giro d’Italia route. But we couldn’t do it alone. So, we called Italian insider Gregor Brown to talk about the key stages, the overall route design, and why the race has shunned trendy short stages. Gregor waxes poetic about all things Italian, from the Mount Etna volcano to the spectacular Zoncolon.

In addition to our in-depth look at the Giro route, we have our usual silly segments: #AskACat3 and the triumphant return of Off the Front/Off the Back.

If you like what you hear, subscribe to the VeloNews podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play. Also, check out the VeloNews Fast Talk training podcast with Trevor Connor.

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Commentary: Why Froome’s Giro-Tour double will win you over

Chris Froome sent shockwaves through the cycling world on Wednesday when he announced plans to race the 2018 Giro d’Italia. He will attempt to hold all grand tour titles at once and become the first rider to win the fabled Giro-Tour double since Marco Pantani in 1998. This is an absolute masterstroke by Froome and exactly the type of charm campaign the Briton needs to finally win over skeptical fans.

Froome is criticized for being a boring, methodical rider who lacks versatility. Team Sky and Froome have an often contentious relationship with the media that has only helped cement this negative reputation. I believe that the Giro-Tour double has potential to charm the haters. No matter whether he succeeds or not, it is the perfect solution to transform Froome’s public perception.

The thing is, any perceived “risk” of failing at the double isn’t a real risk. I think that failure would only help boost his image and profile.

Scenario one: He wins both the Giro and the Tour, he would have his name etched in cycling history and would have to be considered one of the all-time greats.

Scenario two: He wins the Giro and fades in the Tour de France (likely, since all who won the Giro have lost the Tour since 1998). That means we will get the rare treat of Froome racing from behind. He will be a maverick who went down swinging and raced with aggression and panache. Cycling fans love a fading star who takes big chances to make up for their waning powers (Exhibit A: Alberto Contador. Exhibit B: Tom Boonen).

Scenario three: He fails at both races. Regardless, he will line up for the 2018 Tour de France as an underdog and fan favorite for taking a tilt at the Giro. He may squander a record-tying fifth Tour victory this season, but in 2019 he will be 34 years old, still two years younger than the oldest Tour de France winner. I bet he would be able to eke out a fifth victory before retirement.

The only thing that I see stopping Froome in 2018 at the Tour de France is misfortune in the chaotic first week, especially the brutal cobblestone-ridden stage 9. However, an ill-timed flat or crash could happen regardless of if he races the Giro. Why not take a shot at immortality (and increased net worth) while he has the chance?

Since the announcement, some have said Chris Froome is exhibiting hubris and greed with this double attempt. Greed? Maybe. Hubris? No way — that takes willful ignorance. I think Froome knows exactly what he is doing by taking on this challenge. He realizes that he is simply better in grand tours than his competitors. This is his chance to boost his legacy before victories stop coming so easily. Plus, I imagine he won’t have trouble making room in his bank account for the reported 2 million euro start fee from the Giro organizers.

Sure, he might not truly need the 2 million euro bonus (if it even exists). But pro cyclists have short earning windows. When Froome looks around his Monaco neighborhood, I would guess that he wants to cash in while he still can.

I truly believe that Froome possesses the necessary talent and the mental and physical strength to handle the strain to win both the Giro and Tour. No one in the current peloton possesses superior skill in both time trialing and climbing, not to mention a team that can control a race from start to finish. He won the 2015 and 2017 Tours; both editions had the fewest individual TT kilometers in modern history and featured stages designed to foil him and Sky. While his 2017 margin of victory was less than a minute, and he suffered numerous mechanicals during key moments, the race never looked out of his control.

Chris Froome has the ability and team support to make history while rewriting his own story. His decision to make a run for this historic feat isn’t folly, it’s a stroke of genius.

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